Row that boat

So, I fled from Gatineau to my daughter’s in Toronto because of the flood. While the apartment building I live in was still high and dry, I was surrounded by water on all four sides. And across the main highway, where there is a cycle and pedestrian path, that path had been flooded to the North East by the Gatineau River and to the South West by the Ottawa. Lake Leamy, to the direct west, is over its banks, and the Leamy outlet had encroached into the woods on both sides. Welcome to climate change. With more rain expected over the next four days, and flood warnings posted everywhere, I decided that being a chicken was the better course, so I threw a bag together yesterday morning. Did a quick clean of the fridge, grabbed my lap top and my guitar, and headed to the train station. I am glad I did. I know, as of last night, Pointe Gatineau was still flooded, they were still evacuating people, and were not expecting the waters to peak until Wednesday at the earliest, although, here in TO, the rain is certainly not as dire as forecast.

As a number of commentators have noted, we will have to think differently about how we live, where we build, what we build and what our contingency plans are. I am lucky, for many reasons, but especially in regard to this, that the travel to and fro over the last months has got my packing down to a fine art, and recently, I keep a “go bag” by the door with documents that would be hard to replace but necessary to have in navigating a world of bureaucratic paranoia. So, once evacuations started up at the Pointe and I made the decision to cut and run, I managed to get out, with the home battened down, and the necessaries in tow. But, I must say, some things have been added to my “must buy” list: some good, rough rain boots, maybe wellies. Clearly, we dress for function not fashion in a situation like this.

And, I must confess to being happier to be nearer my daughter in a quasi emergency. Although, she hastened to warn me against my urge to run to the rescue. She needs the confidence that she can manage without me. And more than the wellies, this is an absolute necessity for her. After all, I will be going “beyond” within the foreseeable future now, and she will be left to fend for herself in a world that is collapsing. I recently read an article about this traumatic situation: how do parents “prepare” their children for the imminent collapse of civilization??? It depends, of course, on the age and temperament of the child, and the resources available to the parent/child to cushion the worst coming down the road. But if there are no cushioning resources and, in addition, one’s child has a disability, such that even in a world not in obvious collapse, navigation is hard, how much more terrifying, then, is the current situation when events that can, with fair certainty, be pinned on climate change, and are the undeniable harbingers of this apocalypse.

So for all sorts of reasons, this, our first climate event (that required a specific response, like voluntary evacuation), has brought this calamitous future that much closer. I think that during this “visit”, we will be cobbling together, not just go bags, but refugee kits. And look with sharpened compassion on the refugees knocking on our doors, knowing how, all too easily, we could be rowing that boat.

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